Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Musings on Depression

Musings on Depression

Today I sat my desk and I felt 'the fear' wash over me. That sudden, overwhelming helpless tiredness that for anyone who struggles with anxiety and depression is just too horribly familiar. Without fail, the suddenness always surprises me. 

That feeling when you wake up in the morning and think "oh no. Today I just can't do this" or today, for me, when I'm in an environment I am so used to and normally so calm and confident in but suddenly I feel trapped, alone and scared. Today I was reminded that in that moment you need to be kind to yourself.

I recently saw a post of things you SHOULD do every day that will stop those feelings. Things like: get dressed every day, go for a long walk, call an old friend. Blah blah blah. It made me so angry. I know I'm not a medical professional, but some days you just have to do what you have to do just to get through it. 

Maybe it is calling a friend, maybe it is getting outside. Or maybe it's cancelling plans, just for one night and eating pizza and just letting go for a bit. Be kind to yourself.

and remember... this too shall pass. It might have been a bad day but it isn't a bad life. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Chester Places: Hopper Coffee Chester

As I write this, Hopper Coffee Chester has just reached the number 1 spot of Tripadvisor's "coffee and tea places" in Chester and after our visit on Saturday it's easy to see why.

I was enticed by to visit by this adorable picture they posted on Instagram on Friday morning. In fact, it made want to rethink my journey into work every morning just so I could swing by for a hot cuppa on a dreary morning. 

Hopper Coffee Chester
Source: Instagram

Instead, we took a quick pit-stop here on Saturday. Like a lot of coffee shops in Chester, Hopper is small, with enough seats for about 10 people (and you'd probably want slightly less to feel comfortable). But what it lacks in size it makes up for in coziness and atmosphere. The greeting was friendly without being over personal/perky and the service was swift. Because I'm a bad tea blogger I gave in to my cravings and ordered a hot chocolate which was lovely and my personal coffee connoisseur/ husband, Andy, assures me his coffee was strong and with the added bonus of hot milk. It does mean I have an excuse to go back for a cup of tea now too.

Hopper Coffee Chester

The presentation was unfussy, and there was none of the hipster arrogance that I don't like in another Chester coffee shop which shall remain nameless! The menu is simple: coffees, teas, hot chocolate, syrups and a fridge of cold drinks and sandwiches. Perfect for any indecisive people! 

I can't mention Hopper without mentioning the gorgeous location: Godstall Lane. I think this might be one of my favourite bits in Chester city centre and seems to be boasting more and more of my favourite places. You'll find Hopper at the 'Superdrug' end, opposite The Botanist. 

Well worth a visit for a chilled out, cosy vibe. 

What's your favourite Chester coffee shop?

Monday, 17 October 2016

Back at the Barre

Dynamics Dance and Fitness - Barre

I sat down to write this post originally in February. I had started Barre about 4 weeks beforehand and was loving it. The quivering muscles which hurt for days afterwards left me unperturbed and I couldn't wait for my Wednesday night sessions. I even started paying for 1-2-1 personal training sessions and absolutely loved seeing the changes that, coupled with the gym and daily walks were having on my body. I felt fit, my legs especially were toned and I felt really energised having found an exercise class I really loved that didn't make me feel sick afterwards.

Then I got poorly and for several weeks/months the only thing that mattered was getting through the day without being sick and just doing the essentials. When I finally figured out it was a gluten intolerance I was determined to get back behind the Barre. Shamefully, I've only been once in 6 months!

So tonight is the night. The new Dynamics studio is less than a minutes walk from my door and I am determined to get my muscles (already a little sore from the gym) stretched and limbered up. 

So, what's the appeal of Barre?

To quote directly from Dynamics website:

"This unique workout combines the elements of Pilates, yoga, resistance training and ballet into a highly effective regime performed on the mat and at a ballet barre. The technique utilises the body's own resistance in conjunction with weights, bands and small balls. The effect is a long, lean dancers body without being a dancer!

 The low-impact, total body workout lifts the butt, tones the thighs, flattens the abs and sculpts the arms, whilst protecting the joints.

Small isometric contractions are performed and integrated with an interval training approach that burns fat and improves cardiovascular fitness. Posture, flexibility, stamina and core strength are all improved."

Need I say more? For me, it's an ideal workout. I'm working my problem areas: arms, legs and tum: toning and sculpting them. It's burning fat but it's not getting my heart rate up, the way a lot of exercise classes do (I'm looking at you Zumba) so I'm not coming away feeling faint, dizzy or sick. It's ideal. 

By the way, although it uses a Ballet barre no previous dance experience is necessary at all. Whilst some of the exercises are similar to those in a Ballet class there is no rhythm, tutus or pointe shoes required (thank goodness)

Does it hurt?

YES! The exercises are performed in little 'pulses' repeatedly. Positions are held for counts, then extended or made harder, held some more. Yes, it hurts. Every single time I finish and curse living in a top floor flat! I'd love to tell you that it gets easier, but Laura, who runs the classes has been doing it for years and informed me it still hurts! 

Is it worth it? Absolutely! The effects show within a couple of sessions: within a few weeks I could see the difference especially in my legs and I felt fitter in general. 

Want to give it a go? Dynamics Dance and Fitness offer Barre classes on a Monday - Thursday evening and a Saturday morning. They are also introducing a Baby and Barre class for post-natal mums (and I guess dads?) for £10 a session. Blocks of 6 can also be bought and they are currently offering a BOGOF introductory offer via their Facebook page (valid until 31st October). Maybe I'll see you there?

More about Dynamics Dance and Fitness

Dynamics have just moved into new premises on St James Street (opposite the spotty pig). They offer a range of classes including Barre, Insanity, Kettlebell, Piyo, Pilates and more, in a friendly, no pressure environment. Trust me, if they can make me love exercise they can do the same for you. Find out more on their website.

Check out my Pinterest board for at home Barre workouts

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Emotions of Hosting

The emotions of hosting

We have friends coming over tomorrow, a long overdue catch-up. It's great, I'm excited, they are wonderful, loving friends who encourage and build up and are a joy to be around. 

What I'm not excited about right now, as I write this post at 9.50pm is hosting. The truth is, it's my fault. I've got caught up in this idea that I have to be a perfect host. So, when my friend asked yesterday, for the third time, if I really didn't want her to bring food what I should have said was "actually, yes, that would be really helpful". Because she offered, she offered more than once. 

And in my mind what I had going on was "because tomorrow I have a long day at work, then we'll have to food shop and then I've volunteered to lead the session at guides. Which is enough in itself. Except on Friday I've got another long day at work, and I can't possibly miss my friend's leaving drinks which means actually... I don't really have the time or capacity to cook. 

Instead, of course, I said: "No, it's no bother at all, honestly, it's really no bother". So I find myself, now at 9.55 on said Thursday evening, having rushed around the kitchen since I got home preparing food for the slow cooker tomorrow and then hurriedly cleaning the kitchen.

Please don't get me wrong, this is not a call for sympathy, I know my life is relatively chilled compared to others. For one, I don't have children who rely on me, just a highly capable 26-year-old husband who really can fend for himself. (Although,side note, if I see one more meme about how non-parents can't possibly be tired I will start printing "parenting privilege" cards). Equally, my job whilst busy isn't pressured with long hours and a lot of the other things I have chosen to do. 

But as I cleaned my hob, for the 100th time, I reflected on what I can learn from this and perhaps you can too :

1. Accept help - real friends don't offer if they don't mean it. 
2. Equally, don't offer unless YOU mean it - Seriously, learn to say no not just to others but to the pressure you put on yourself
3. Be honest about your limitations  - physical, emotional, mental, time constraints. Recognise them, own them and be honest, not just with yourself but with your friends.
4. Find joy in hosting, not guilt and pressure - if that means you do less or you simplify than fine, again, real friends won't mind.
5. Don't, under any circumstances, literally, any, apologise for the mess! I've written an entire post about this but to sum up: Your friends have not come to visit your home to judge you for a channel 4 program, they have come to visit YOU. Embrace that. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Liverpool Girl Geeks - Get Your Head Around Code


For those who don't know, I am an email marketer and  until recently I didn't realise I have a passion for women in tech/ girls in STEM (science, tech, engineering and mathematics). I'm also really passionate about personal and professional development. As a result, I've been following the work of Liverpool Girl Geeks for about a year and keep telling myself to get my butt into gear and attend their monthly "get your head around code" course.

Well, this month, I took the plunge. 

Liverpool Girl Geeks - Get your head around code

I arrived at Liverpool Science Park, 30 minutes early, naturally and tweeting my excitement (because if I didn't tweet, did it happen?) where I was greeted by my teacher, Alex. Together with four other ladies (two trainee primary school teachers and a database analyst) we had two hours to get our head around HTML, CSS and Javascript. 

I should add here, I have a very basic understanding of HTML, which I admitted was from building profiles in Neopets and, more recently, from a few quick tutorials from Code Academy. 

The first hour was a bit of teaching and understanding the "language" of each code and like all languages, there are nuances and things to remember. At the time, some it felt familiar and some of it felt completely alien and I wasn't sure I'd ever get my head around it.

But in the second half, we moved on to the practical. By the end of the hour, I'd added an extra form, styled it and added a picture. Now, I won't be winning any design award but not bad for an hours work. 

I came away feeling exhausted from the information overload but really excited that I'd learned a new skill which I hope to use in the future and develop upon. Whilst I don't think that our IT developers need to be worrying about their jobs (as if I could leave my team anyway!) it is a great feeling to know that I could confidently read and edit code if I needed to and I'm proudly displaying my stickers anywhere possible!

Amazingly, the course was only £20, which is a  bargain for learning a new skill, no?

As a cool side note, while we were doing all this, #womenintech was trending on twitter, it just emphasised how important and beneficial the work is that Liverpool Girl Geeks and similar are doing. 

What skill are you trying to develop at the moment?

The next Get your Head around Code event is November 10th. For more information check out all the Liverpool Girl Geeks events here. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Estee Lauder Breast Cancer Awareness Beauty Box

I've never been very interested in "beauty boxes" and subscriptions, I was put off when they first came out and I paid, what at the time felt like a small fortune for a tiny box of samples I could have picked up for free at a concession stand. However, the Estee Lauder Breast Cancer Awareness Beauty Box (The BCA Beauty Box) felt different to me, featured products I'm actually interested in trying and donates over half the price to charity - which is amazing. 

Retailing at £20, the BCA is the first of it's kind, featuring products worth £66 and donating £12.00 of every sale to The Breast Cancer Foundation. I've had  quick look and unfortunately it is now sold out but I'd recommend keeping an eye on the website because I really hope they produce more. 

The products featured are:

  • Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover for Lids, Lashes, Lips
  • Clinique Surge Extended Thirst Relief
  • Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair 7ml
  • Estee Lauder Sumptous Knockout Mascara Black 2.8ml
  • Origins Drink Up Mask To Quench Skin's Thirst 7ml
  • Aveda Hand Relief™ Moisturizing Crème 40ml
  • Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray 30ml
  • Smashbox Photo Finish Primer 7ml
  • and a pink ribbon pin. 
 As yet, I haven't used any of the products. I've just lovingly unwrapped the box and stared at the beauty of it all. But I am most excited to try the Smashbox photo finish primer and the Clinque surge extended thirst relief.

I've always been very lucky with my skin and actually haven't suffered from too many spots until the last few years. Even now I'll get the odd one or two each month. However, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to skincare and I know I need to start looking after it properly, especially after the well-meaning but a bit too blunt therapist at the spa in Dubai pointed out a few flaws!! So I'm hoping these samples will kick start me into a routine and help me find products I'll love and keep on using. 

I'll be sure to check back with a full review of each product. Which one do you recommend?
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